On October 18, 2019, a New York Times standards editor emailed seven other Times editors to alert them to the existence of a new Twitter account that they would soon grow to respect—and, at times, resent. According to the characterization of one of the editors on the email, the message advised its recipients “that there was a lawyer on Twitter aggressively pointing out typos, and that we should consider following him.” A little more than a month after the Twitter account’s creation on September 16, The New York Times had taken note of @nyttypos, or Typos of the New York Times.
Anyone who followed @nyttypos that day soon got a feel for the flavor of its tweets. On October 19, @nyttypos spotted a “happened” instead of a “happen” in a story about Brexit; a missing space and a picture of three people captioned with five names in a story about TikTok clubs; a missing comma and a “statue” in place of a “statute” in a story about President Donald Trump’s attempt to host the G7 Summit at his own Doral resort; a subject-verb agreement error in a story about Venezuela’s water quality; a misplaced comma in a story about Bernie Sanders accepting an endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; and a missing space between quotation marks and a quote in a story about Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Although the account linked to a “nice, probably typo-free story” in the love section, it also found time to editorialize about the supposedly sorry state of the Times. “It’s kind of a shame that virtually each and every piece of content the Times produces, even the pretty great ones like this, has a typo in it,” @nyttypos tweeted about an opinion piece that contained a wayward word. On the same day, a story about a German YouTuber that contained a duplicated phrase prompted the observation “At times I really have a hard time believing that this paper is edited at all.” Between typos, @nyttypos engaged in a debate about the proper way to form plurals—“M.V.P.s” or “M.V.P.’s”—in support of the position that “Apostrophes don’t pluralize!”
It wasn’t the account’s most productive typo-finding day. But it was a weekend, and its owner did have other work. “I took ten minutes out of my fun Saturday afternoon reading D.C. Circuit opinions about jurisdiction to review FERC orders to read this article and find the typos,” @nyttypos tweeted about the TikTok story.
The proud pedant behind @nyttypos is, as his Twitter bio proclaims, an “appellate lawyer and persnickety dude.” While working for a government office on appeals for the federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court, he has diligently, competently, and caustically grammar-policed the paper of record in his spare time, producing more than 20,000 tweets over the past 11 months. His account is a cross between an ego trip, a crusade, and a compulsion. His quixotic quest to flag the words that weren’t fit to print has attracted roughly 8,000 followers, yielded countless corrections, and made its anonymous owner the object of some fascination within the walls and Slack chats of the Times, while exposing the trade-offs in copy quality that competitive publishing in the age of algorithms demands.
“He’s obviously a smart, well-read, knowledgeable person,” says Jason Bailey, an editor on the national desk at the Times (and a former colleague of mine when he was a copy editor at Grantland). “And he’s almost always right.” Bailey, who frequently fields tweets from @nyttypos, says the tipster sometimes reports perceived typos that aren’t incorrect according to the most recent version of the Times style guide, which is more up to date than the 2015 PDF @nyttypos possesses. “But for the most part, if it comes to grammar, he’s correct. And to be honest, I’ve learned some things from him, because I’m not an English major or a grammarian in a traditional sense. I kind of edit by ear a little bit. So some of those more technical details, he’s been helpful with.”
Despite his proficiency and apparent command of syntactic arcana, @nyttypos is self-taught too. Studying Latin in high school helped him learn the parts of speech, but he majored in philosophy, and his experience in journalism is limited to a short-lived column in his college paper. “I don’t think that I have a terribly great grasp on grammar, to be honest with you,” he says on the phone. “I think I intuit some things.” Sometimes he researches rules before tweeting, lest the master of spotting mistakes commit a mistake of his own. “I don’t like to be wrong about things,” he says, unsurprisingly.
I'm not really capable of making typos.— Typos of the New York Times (@nyttypos) August 11, 2020
The prolific account is an outlet for a lifelong impulse of its ornery operator, who hates GIFs and emoji almost as much as misspellings. He remembers first being bothered by bad copy as a 5-year-old typo prodigy who noted mistakes on menus at a local restaurant. Teachers have told him that he read the Times to classmates in kindergarten, and he confesses to fashioning his writing after The New York Times Book Review when he was a preteen. While he expresses some fondness for The New York Times Magazine, he says he’s never been a devoted Times reader and doesn’t harbor any sentimental attachment to the paper; he read it because it’s what was available in the “middlebrow suburban home” where he grew up in Philadelphia in the 1990s.
Now in his early 30s, @nyttypos still indulges his deep-seated antipathy toward typos in his professional and personal lives. In his own legal writing, which he describes as “fairly fussy,” he strives for immaculate copy not only because of his habitual aversion to errors, but also because some judges look down on typo-prone lawyers, and because misquotes or mistakes in citation may confuse readers or undercut his credibility (a concern for the Times, too). “If you’re trying to get a case into the Supreme Court, which I do on occasion, and you’re trying to stand out from a crowd of thousands of submissions, you want to signal in all sorts of ways that you’re terribly competent, and one way of doing that is not typing typos,” he says.
Judges make grammatical mistakes too—some, he observes, display a regrettable tendency to swap “tenet” and “tenant”—but he keeps those typos to himself unless he has a personal connection to the judge or can notify a designated clerk who handles corrections. However, he does deploy his talents in other offline company, with some social consequences. By general request, he proofreads the legal briefs that his colleagues compose. But he took things too far when he sent unsolicited feedback to his office’s press secretary. “I was sending her corrections to all of her press releases every day, and I think I was asked to stop fixing them,” he says. “So now the corrections are filtered through somebody else if they’re really bad.” When he encounters typos in the wild, he sometimes tries to “helpfully” point out mistakes, but he picks his spots, holding his tongue if he has reason to anticipate an awkward interaction. Thus far, he hasn’t objected to the handmade sign at the corner shop near his home that says “can sale closed containers” and “no sales on Sunday’s” because he fears offending the proprietor. He knows not to [sic] where he eats.
Although @nyttypos revealed his identity to me—a scoop some New York Times newshounds would be happy to have—he asked not to be named. His status as a mystery man enhances his mystique. “Some of the editors that I’m closer to, we definitely discuss him,” Bailey says. “And he’s kind of this curious figure because he spends a lot of time doing this … and it is fascinating to think about why someone would do that. There are times where he’s tweeting me all weekend.” Bailey and other editors have made a game of trying to guess who he is, but @nyttypos withholds just enough details that they haven’t cracked the case. Although he says his current boss is politically conservative and “might think it’s so wonderful to see me criticizing the Times,” he may want to work for a law firm in the future, and he doesn’t know whether his hobby would go over well: “You wouldn’t want the entire hiring committee thinking about it, that some weird, typo-correcting Twitter personality is applying to work there.”
If you're a new follower, you have to know that you're not allowed to tweet appreciative gifs at me; I don't like gifs. I don't care if they're "tasteful" gifs, like the one of Orson Welles applauding in Citizen Kane, or cute gifs, like those of puppies; I hate all gifs.— Typos of the New York Times (@nyttypos) June 4, 2020
On the internet, @nyttypos can have his busman’s holiday without worrying about the glares, gritted teeth, eye rolls, and raised eyebrows his corrections could invite in real life. The concept for the account came to him after it seemed like he was seeing more typos in the Times in the course of his regular reading; rather than pollute his personal, law-oriented Twitter account with typo-related tweets, he cordoned them off on a separate account, which soon came to dominate his Twitter activities. Originally, the account was called New York Times Typos and used the Times logo as its avatar, but when Twitter suspended him for infringing on Times iconography (or so he suspects), he negotiated its reactivation by changing the name to Typos of the New York Times and replacing the Times logo with an image of one of his favorite catches, an October subheadline that referenced “Prime Minister Justice Trudeau.”
For @nyttypos, every day is a new edition of the Times’ “Copy edit this!” quiz. His reign of typographical terror began innocuously enough, when he tweeted at Times national political reporter Thomas Kaplan to report a missing period (which was later restored). At first, he scoured the Twitter feeds for sections like world, arts, and metro for articles with errors, but few read his replies to their low-trafficked tweets. In search of followers and a higher return on his typo-time investment, he began to concentrate on higher-profile sections and columns by Twitter bait like Bret Stephens. Anything printed with the Times’ imprimatur falls within his self-appointed purview, so in addition to eyeballing articles, he also scrutinizes (and gloats about the deletion of) official Times tweets, which often get garbled when text from the paper is translated into pithy social-speak. Although his métier is monitoring the Times for grammatical malpractice, he does alert the Times to any factual mistakes he uncovers. Lately, Hillary Clinton has covered that beat, but @nyttypos contributes occasionally. “I don’t know that many facts,” he explains.
Some other fun factual errors in un-fact-checked articles I've flagged:— Typos of the New York Times (@nyttypos) July 7, 2020
DJ Scott La Rock was not a rapper.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand is not the youngest female world leader; Sanna Marin of Finland is five years younger.
Bolsonaro never tested positive for coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/URyp8UAcAx
Some staffers at the Times are baffled by @nyttypos’ rapid pace. Part of his process is signal boosting typo tips from his followers, but the real secret to proofreading the paper while holding down a day job is not really reading it. “I don’t really read the articles,” he says. “I’m fortunately rather able to look at the sentences somehow and see if the verbs don’t agree without actually reading anything that they’re saying.” Thanks to this typo sixth sense—which he now has trouble turning off when he reads non-Times content—he says he averages under an hour a day of reading/skimming. The greater time suck is checking his notifications and replying to tweets. Because of that busywork, he says he consumes less Times content than he did before he started the account, although he’s honed his capacity to pick up on even the most inconsequential incorrect character. “I can tell the difference between an italicized and non-italicized period,” he once bragged.
I didn't read every word of this but in the parts I did read, I didn't catch a single typo. A pleasant surprise.— Typos of the New York Times (@nyttypos) June 6, 2020
When he corners his typo prey, @nyttypos typically screenshots the problematic passage and tags the author and/or any editors he believes may be responsible (or responsive). Although he could catch more typos with honey than with vinegar, his tweets tend toward acetic acid. “Functionally illiterate” is a go-to put-down. “It’s kind of a paradox in that if he just wants to fix the mistakes, he’s hurting his chances of doing so because reporters are probably tuning him out, maybe actually muting him or blocking him,” Bailey says. “But he’s probably building more of a following among random people on Twitter who like to see someone dunk on the Times about backward quotation marks.”
The provocative tweeter confirms that some Times staffers have blocked him, and others have fired back; as Times contributor Jeremy Gordon succinctly tweeted in May, “Damn, whoever runs this sucks!” Gordon, who shares his old boss’s preference for the private approach to corrections, explains, “My DMs are open, my email is there, my editor’s email is there as well (I think he was replying to the both of us), and I was just very viscerally annoyed about the method he chose.” Even the Times staffers who interact regularly with @nyttypos and value his input regret the way it’s delivered. “It does upset me when he’s blatantly mean-spirited or too harshly condemns an article’s content—not just the typos in it—because I think it detracts from his mission and makes his image more that of a cranky stickler than a helpful aid,” says Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, a reporter on the national desk. Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak, who says he’s happy to have @nyttypos’ help, nonetheless adds, “He has yet to master a civil tone, has no sense of proportion, and seems to have no understanding of the pressures of deadline journalism in the internet age.”
A national security and legal reporter for the Times, Charlie Savage, says, “A typo is like having something stuck in your teeth—you’d rather someone tell you about it so you can take care of it before more people see it, rather than going through the day like that.” But @nyttypos’ method of preventing future embarrassment also attracts short-term attention, like a dining companion who climbs on top of a table in a crowded restaurant, points to your teeth, and yells, “GROSS! SPINACH!”
The abrasive, adversarial tone that @nyttypos employs—which Bailey labels “the bedside manner of a cactus”—is, by the account owner’s admission, partly an appeal to popularity. But it also reflects who he is. Although he calls the account “self-parodically prescriptive,” the prickly @nyttypos persona resembles his real-life mien. “There’s probably not a huge gulf between the two,” he says. “If anything, it’s like a greater effulgence of my personality—or a part of it, at least—than I’m allowed in some contexts. And certainly the half-serious, half-joking mania about my infallibility is a very real feature of my personality.” He dials down that attitude when working with his colleagues, who “don’t mostly like being insulted,” but distance and anonymity make it more painless to troll—for him, at least, if not for the writers on the receiving end of his pointed typo tweets.
Although Bailey usually embraces corrections from @nyttypos, he chastised him in March for tagging already-harried reporters with minor mistakes that they can’t fix themselves and that are often introduced during the editing process. The reward for coming to his writers’ rescue has been taking many more typo reports for the team, although the account does still call out some writers directly. “Part of it is vindictiveness,” @nyttypos says. “Not a very large part.”
An inevitable byproduct of that practice is that people pile onto his targets, or even hijack his tweets to serve a political purpose. “I get annoyed by a lot of the replies, because people will chime in for political reasons, or people say things that I think are too offensive about the reporters,” he says. He claims not to “have any particular politics,” and he tries to maintain neutrality—a stance that many mainstream news outlets (including the Times) have struggled to adapt to in the time of Trump. “I don’t want to lose followers over appearing to take some side of something, even though I’m just really only criticizing the quality of the coverage, not the politics of it,” he says. When he tweeted in May about the multitude of typos in Times media columnist Ben Smith’s divisive article about reporter Ronan Farrow, some Twitter users seized on the sloppiness as a sign that the Times had rushed the piece to print to head off an imagined attack from Farrow. “I said, ‘No this is just how all their stuff really is to a greater or lesser degree,’” @nyttypos recalls. Automated accounts such as New New York Times (which tweets every use of a word—or a typo—that appears in the paper for the first time) and Editing the Gray Lady (which tracks changes to the paper’s main page) sometimes turn up additional evidence of careless copy.
dicsussing— New New York Times (@NYT_first_said) August 7, 2020
In tandem with Twitter’s amplification of his natural obnoxiousness, an impression of slipping standards fuels @nyttypos’ biting tone. Although he’s chasing Twitter clout and the adulation of the fellow grammar geeks who flock to his mentions (where they mingle with lookie-loos who frequently label him a “grammar Nazi”), he’s also motivated by what he regards as a “massive decline” in the quality of copy at the Times. “I don’t really think of myself as someone who’s that interested in what’s wrong with American journalism,” he says. But he views his account as “a sort of long-running critique of at least the Times’ editing practices. And there is a genuine vein of disappointment and shock.”
I'm discontinuing my practice of liking the articles without typos so as not to give the false impression I think anything coming out of this gussied-up content farm is good journalism, or that I think not making typos is especially praiseworthy rather than minimally competent. https://t.co/7W27ciFrek— Typos of the New York Times (@nyttypos) June 6, 2020
“Massive decline” is an overbid, but @nyttypos’ apocalyptic vision of a world awash in typos isn’t entirely baseless. His account’s constant tweets are an indirect result of the downsizing and deadline pressure endemic to digital media as publishers fight for eyeballs in an industry where every minute matters.
Within the past few years, the Times has dramatically revamped its editing process. In 2017, the paper eliminated its 100-plus-person copy desk, reassigning some editors and laying off others. The move was met with much resistance from writers and editors alike: In late June of that year, hundreds of Times journalists staged a walkout in response to the planned cuts, and coalitions of reporters and editors sent letters of protest to senior management. Executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn authored a letter of their own, in which they defended the decision as “deliberate, fair, and necessary.” The result of that restructuring and other “difficult choices about our current spending,” the top editors asserted, would be a “stronger, nimbler, and more innovative newsroom.” In a separate Q&A, Baquet portrayed the copy desk as a relic of the paper’s print-only past and laid out his desire to “streamline that system and move faster in the digital age.” According to Barbara Davis, a NewsGuild representative assigned to the Times, 70-plus newsroom employees, including 32 copy editors, took voluntary buyouts. (One additional copy editor chose not to take the buyout and was subsequently laid off.)
Bailey was one of the last dedicated copy editors hired before the desk’s dissolution, in April 2016. At that time, he says, most pieces received three or even four reads before publication from editors in various roles. A “backfield editor” who worked closely with reporters on certain beats would parcel out stories and field them after they were filed. After that assigning editor’s first pass, each story would be sent to the copy desk, where a copy editor would read it primarily for punctuation, style, and grammar. Then the copy editor would hand it off to a “slot editor,” an archaic title left over from the days when physical copy would be slid into the “slot” in the middle of a U-shaped desk. The experienced slot editors were also experts on the stylebook and would scan for anything that had slipped through the first two lines of typo defense.
After the slot editor filed the completed piece for the print deadline, editors would print out proofs of the paper, and everyone who wasn’t working on another pressing task would pitch in to perfect the copy. Even after three earlier reads, Bailey remembers, “We would catch stuff all the time.” But since the reckoning came for the copy desk, he says, “Things have just completely changed.”
The new, consolidated system eradicated copy and slot editors in favor of “strong desks” that handle the whole life cycle of a story, from filed draft to published piece. Effectively there are still backfield editors, but when those editors complete their pass, they hand off the copy to a second editor on the same desk who may or may not have copy-editing experience and doesn’t necessarily know the Times stylebook well. “I think that’s where you see maybe a little more of the sloppiness in terms of adjudicating style,” says Bailey, who adds that as the newsroom grows further removed from its copy-desk days, “it’s going to die out in terms of who actually really knows the stylebook as part of their job.”
Bailey—speaking for himself and not on behalf of the Times—thinks the cutbacks boiled down to two goals: cost savings and speed. The paper’s revenue hadn’t (and still hasn’t) returned to its mid-2000s, prerecession peak, and print revenue was sinking as digital revenue rose. (Digital revenue surpassed print revenue for the first time in the second quarter of 2020.) When the budgetary belt began to tighten, the well-populated desk was an easy target. “I’ll be honest, I think that was actually smart, because we were overstaffed a little bit,” Bailey says. “I was surprised when I joined the Times how many editors there were for the amount of copy.” Ringer copy chief Craig Gaines, who began his career at newspapers, notes that the Times’ 2017 tack isn’t unusual: “Whenever a media organization starts looking to cut costs, copy editors are among the first to go—they are seen as vestiges of a dead era, and many of their traditional functions are made easier or redundant by digital publishing tools.”
In recent years, the Times’ main source of traffic has shifted away from Facebook and toward Google, which rewards the first publication to post. In a breaking-news situation, an extra read takes precious time that might move an article down on the Google News page or in the list of search results, which costs clicks. “Basically, I think they made that calculation and said, ‘We’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of cleanness in our copy in order to maintain our competitive advantage, to gain new readers,’” Bailey says.
For @nyttypos, clean copy is king, and he says from experience that it wouldn’t take long to root out the most obvious flaws that he finds. “I don’t know how many people there are as fast as I am, but assuming there are some, you could get rid of all the mispunctuated parentheticals, sentences missing periods, verbs that don’t agree with their subjects, and things like calling George Floyd ‘Gregory’ and ‘Michael’ with very slight delays in publication,” he says, noting that most of his corrections are posted minutes after articles are tweeted out.
But minutes may be all-important. Bailey remembers an instance from this spring when he hurried to expedite a significant news story that the Times broke before many of its competitors. The next day, another person at the paper circulated time stamps showing when the major national news outlets’ pieces had appeared. One other outlet had tied with the Times, and multiple others had posted their stories within the next 10 minutes. Because of that pressure to publish, Bailey sometimes asks a colleague to look over his shoulder as he edits—a simultaneous second read that satisfies the requirement for multiple pairs of eyes on each article, but doesn’t put those pairs of eyes in the best position to see clearly. Continuously updated “live briefings” are another typo problem area. Bailey sums up the situation: “We got rid of editors and we’re producing more content. So … we have fewer people looking at more stuff.” And the remainder are racing both the clock and their competitors.
“We always want our copy to be clean and accurate,” says Mike Abrams, the paper’s senior editor for editing standards. “That matters more than speed.” He also observes that to calculate the fraction of pieces that contain typos, one must consider the expanding denominator. “We publish hundreds of articles a day, many on very tight deadlines. In terms of words, we produce the equivalent of the complete works of Shakespeare each week.”
The bad boy of copy-editing Twitter would doubtless snark that Shakespeare-mimicking monkeys with typewriters might make fewer typos. But maybe, some suggest, that’s his inexperience speaking. “I wish @nyttypos could spend a day sitting alongside our editors in the NYT newsroom (assuming we ever go back to work in the NYT newsroom),” says Times economics reporter Ben Casselman. “He would see a team of incredibly smart, dedicated, and hard-working professionals, all of them every bit as ‘persnickety’ as he is. And he would see the many errors of grammar and style, as well as fact and judgment, that never make it into the paper or onto the website because of their work.” Gaines—who says “No thanks!” when asked whether he would welcome an @ringertypos account—knows that the imperfections @nyttypos discovers are the remnants of much messier drafts. “It’s more impressive to receive a draft manuscript and edit out 98 percent of the typos than it is to read a published manuscript and cherry-pick the remaining 2 percent,” he says.
Even so, stripping out a step of the previous rigorous process can’t help but have had an effect. As Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote in 2017, “Millions of nitpicking New York Times readers, rev your social-media passwords.” Enter @nyttypos.
I think I forgot to mention, I'll block anyone who tweets an emoji at me. I'm too pure and good for these sub-verbal modalities of communication.— Typos of the New York Times (@nyttypos) May 17, 2020
When the Times eliminated the position of public editor in 2017, publisher Arthur Sulzberger justified the subtraction by asserting that the Times no longer needed its in-house watchdog because “our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be.” Although that wasn’t the stated rationale for removing the copy desk, the public’s proofreading prowess is seen as a similar safety net/accountability coach. Abrams acknowledges that “losing the copy desks diminished our quality control capabilities, but it allowed us to invest in other areas of considerable impact. We have worked to adjust since 2017, and that effort continues.” In a sense, the Times has outsourced some of that quality control to the public. “We correct errors as soon as we can, and we appreciate when readers help,” Abrams says.
The cranky reader who helps the most bridles at the notion that, as one Times editor told him, the Times’ habit of fixing the typos that @nyttypos identifies means that “everything is working as designed.” But he has made a meaningful difference. Although @nyttypos doesn’t keep track of his finds and doesn’t always return to the scene of the typographical crimes he uncovers, he estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the typos he flags are fixed fairly quickly. Some of those fixes, Bailey says, would be implemented anyway by editors doing post-publication reads. But Bailey dutifully fixes every mistake @nyttypos sends him, either immediately (in the case of an error that would otherwise end up in print) or at the end of his shift, when he cleans up extra spaces, bolded punctuation marks, and dummy apostrophes masquerading as curly apostrophes. “Ninety-nine percent of people that read that, including the editors, aren’t even going to see that,” Bailey says. “But I still think it’s important that we have high standards.”
Bailey collected some of @nyttypos’ most common catches—such as periods placed on the wrong sides of parentheses—in a memo that he sent to his colleagues on the national desk. Based on internal requests for fixes, he can tell that the account’s influence extends throughout the Times. “When a reporter emails me or Slacks me or texts me or calls me with a change that’s kind of like a typo, I know where it’s coming from,” Bailey says. “They didn’t catch it because they were taking the time to read their copy for the fourth time. You know @nyttypos tagged them. So it’s pretty obvious that he has spread his tentacles far.” Bogel-Burroughs, who says @nyttypos has conditioned him to search for extra spaces before he files, remembers several pre-pandemic instances in which he rushed to share an @nyttypos tweet with an editor before his train entered a tunnel on his commute back to Brooklyn.
“I think what he is doing has earned him the respect of reporters and editors because he is right—at least as far as I have seen—and because he is dogged,” says immigration reporter Annie Correal. “We tend to like dogged, obsessive types.” Steven Erlanger, the Times’ chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, began his career as a copy editor at The Boston Globe, which makes him predisposed to pay attention to @nyttypos’ tweets. “His tone can be annoying and smarmy, but that’s Twitter for you,” he says. “I simply think that mistakes, even trivial ones, ought to be fixed if possible—no matter who points them out, or how.”
Typo turnabout is fair play, and @nyttypos concedes that he’s occasionally deleted an erroneous tweet or admitted that he was wrong, although he also states, “I don’t allow myself to make typos.” It’s true that he doesn’t provide much material for the spinoff account started by another anonymous tweeter, “Typos of the Typos of the New York Times” (@nyttypostypos), but some Times staffers delight in disputing his contentions or hoisting him with his own typo petard. Perhaps sensing someone with a common mission, media columnists encourage him: Smith, who says he’s grateful to @nyttypos, regularly retweets him, and penultimate Times public editor and current Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan describes herself as a casual follower. “I’m in support of anything that makes journalism more accurate,” she says, although she continues, “Typos have always plagued us and I don’t know if there really are more now.” The Times’ accelerated production process may also make it more vulnerable to lapses that do more damage than typos: Last August, Baquet confessed that overextending editors had abetted a “bad headline” about a Trump televised address, and in June, a Times spokesman blamed “a rushed editorial process” for the publication of a militaristic Tom Cotton op-ed that spurred external condemnation, an internal revolt, and multiple resignations.
As long as he has a government job in which he doesn’t have to rack up billable hours, @nyttypos plans to keep tweeting. Although he would consider compiling a book of small mistakes to avoid, he has little interest in monetizing his typo powers. He aspires only to continue his Sisyphean pursuit of clean copy, build his brand, and rail against what he sees as the paper’s hypocrisy in pimping its Pulitzers while watering down its standards. The Gray Lady’s rising subscription counts and steady revenue in a year when layoffs have hit numerous newsrooms hard would suggest that most of its audience doesn’t share his typo preoccupation.
One thing @nyttypos won’t do is join the Times to try to reform it from the inside. “That would be a pretty boring job,” he says, despite already doing it part time for free. Not that the Times would have him: Bailey says that while @nyttypos is clearly qualified on his grammatical merits, rapport is important, and his hiring would ruffle feathers. Far from the newsroom, he’s free to be his acerbic self. So he tweets on, quotes against the current, ceaselessly aghast.
This piece was updated after publication on Tuesday with additional information.